Please find below answers to some of the most-commonly asked questions we receive from members of the public. If you can’t find the topic or question you’d like to raise, get in touch using our contact form.
Can an architect guarantee planning permission?
No architect can guarantee planning permission, which is granted at the discretion of the planning authority. When making a planning application an architect should be able to help you to consider statutory provisions and Local Authority guidelines, which may be negotiable.
Can an architect take legal action to recover fees?
While a professional is entitled to pursue lawful action to recover unpaid fees, an architect is expected to deal with such matters appropriately, particularly if the fee owed is a disputed one. Alternative dispute resolution should be encouraged as this can often resolve any dispute at lower cost than going to Court. An architect could use a debt-collection agency, but should make sure that a reputable agency is appointed.
Does an architect need to provide their client with drawings in CAD format?
Unless the format of drawings is specifically provided for in a contract, there is no obligation to provide drawings in CAD format. Clients may wish to ask for this to be provided for at the outset.
Does an architect need to provide their client with a copy of their professional indemnity insurance (PII)?
An architect should advise the client that they have adequate and appropriate insurance cover. The easiest way to do this is to include this in their Terms of Engagement. They may well wish to provide further details of that cover upon request to a client, but they should check with their insurers before providing a copy of their insurance policy. There is, however, no obligation placed on an architect to provide their client with a copy of their PII policy
Does an architect have to use a standard form of contract?
No. While pre-prepared contracts are convenient and comprehensive, they may not be appropriate for all appointments. Bespoke Terms of Engagement may well be suitable as long as they adequately cover the identity of the contracting parties; the scope of the work; the fee (or method of calculating it); who will be responsible for what; any limitations; a statement that professional indemnity insurance is held, and what to do in the event of a dispute or complaint. Clients should make sure that they fully understand the contract, particularly what work the architect is going to undertake and the fees. This early understanding is key to a good working relationship between the architect and client. Any changes to the scope of work or fee arrangements should be confirmed in writing.
How much should an architect charge?
There is no tariff for architects’ fees, but the level of fees must be agreed in writing with the client in advance for any work is undertaken. Fee disputes are costly for both parties and ensuring that the fee or method of calculating it is set out in writing at the outset is not only something which the architect is expected to do, but will also help avoid problems later.
Is an architect responsible for an underperforming contractor/builder?
In general terms, no. The traditional role of an architect is not to supervise the contractor, but to inspect the works and certify them as stated in the contract. There may be times when the architect also acts as a contractor. This may have its benefits, but does mean that they can no longer offer independent architectural services. They should explain what this means to the client before any work is undertaken.
Can an architect refuse to provide documents if their fees are unpaid?
An architect should return to the client any documents to which they are entitled. To avoid any dispute, it can be helpful if this is specified within the terms of engagement at the outset. Disputes which concern the rights to documentation can be complex and are likely to need legal advice.
Can a non-architect apply for planning permission?
Yes. There is no restriction on the ‘function’ of architectural services in the UK, but only those on the Register of Architects may use the title ‘Architect’ in business or practice. By using an architect a client can be assured that they are dealing with someone appropriately qualified, experienced and insured.
What is an Architect’s Certificate?
There are a number of different kinds of Architects Certificate.
An Interim Certificate will be issued by an architect during the course of construction to confirm that work has been done to their satisfaction and that the client should make a stage-payment to the contractor.
A Practical Completion Certificate will mark the conclusion of the construction (notwithstanding latent defects) and transfer the possession of the building to the client; and a Final Completion Certificate will be issued by the architect when the contract has been fully and properly completed.
A Professional Consultant’s Certificate is provided by a professional consultant (including architects), confirming its conformity with Building Regulations and the contractual instructions for the purposes of securing a mortgage on the property. It is not a guarantee for the construction, in the same way that an NHBC (National House Building Council) Warranty is. You may want to take legal advice on whether it is an appropriate document for your requirements.
Can an architect provide architectural and contracting services?
Yes. An architect can act as both contractor and architect/contract administrator, but only after explaining the natural conflict of interest in undertaking both roles, and that their advice can no longer be relied on as impartial.
My architect uses the description Architectural Services / Architectural Designer/ Architecture and Planning, can I complain to you about them?
The Architects Act 1997 specifically protects the title ‘architect’ in business or practice; derivatives such as architecture and architectural are not protected under the Act. It may be that the person you have engaged to carry out the architectural work is not an architect and therefore the ARB cannot investigate your complaint. However, you should check to see if the individual is a member of another organisation as they may fall under the jurisdiction of another body.